It was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that a person cannot be convicted for causing disappearance of evidence merely because he failed to inform the police about the crime.
It was so decided in Dinesh Kumar Kalidas Patel v State of Gujarat (S.L.P.(Criminal) Nos. 1815-1816 of 2016), decided on 12.02.2018.
Whether the conviction under Section 201 of the IPC could have been maintained while acquitting him of the main offence under Section 498A of the IPC.
The trial court had convicted a person for offences under Sections 498A and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Gujarat High Court acquitted him of the offence under Section 498A of the IPC but conviction under Section 201 of the IPC was maintained.
The Supreme Court observed that the High Court had maintained the conviction under Section 201 of the IPC, only on the ground that the accused did not give intimation to the police of the unnatural death and that no post-mortem was conducted.
The court said a charge under Section 201 of the IPC can be independently laid and conviction maintained also, in case the prosecution is able to establish that an offence had been committed, the person charged with the offence had the knowledge or the reason to believe that the offence had been committed, the said person has caused disappearance of evidence and such act of disappearance has been done with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment.
Referring to Hanuman and others v. State of Rajasthan (1994 Supp (2) SCC 39), the Court said the mere fact that the deceased allegedly died an unnatural death could not be sufficient to bring home a charge under Section 201 of the IPC. Unless the prosecution was able to establish that the accused person knew or had reason to believe that an offence has been committed and had done something causing the offence of commission of evidence to disappear, he cannot be convicted.